COVID-19 in Germany’s Cologne: We May be Heading for Full Lockdown
In Cologne, like all cities in Germany, shops, pubs and restaurants are shut until the 19 April.
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
For all practical purposes, this could be my message in a bottle, drifting in the sea and washing up on a shore, waiting to be picked up by someone who would care to read it.
It seems we have all – families and individuals – become little islands, isolating ourselves almost completely to stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19. The internet and telephone lines remain almost our only medium of exchanging information, and as I write these lines, I realise, how my life seems to sound more and more like a novel about the apocalypse.
But it wasn’t like this until recently.
If you’d asked me to write about the coronavirus three weeks ago, or even five days ago, I would have begun my story with a joke – I even had a funny one about the scarcity of loo rolls.
I wasn’t worried. I had been following news about the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, its origins in Wuhan and the Chinese government’s attempts to control it. That was around the beginning of February. By the end of the month, I was beginning to take precautions and taking extra care with my children’s diet, but last week was when I began to realise that COVID-19 had hit home and this was serious business.
Even now, at the first glance, life seems normal on our street. Spring has come early and the days are warm and sunny. Blooming cherry, magnolia and apple trees dot the road and as I walk towards the playground every morning with my children, I see others strolling in the sunshine.
In the evenings, the local youth club comes alive with the sounds of small children and teenagers chatting and playing football or skateboarding. On any other day, this would be like any other day in a Cologne suburb, but this time there is an underlying tension.
In her speech this evening, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged people to avoid close contact with others, saying COVID-19 was the worst crisis to affect Germany since World War II.
In Cologne, like all cities in Germany, shops, pubs and restaurants are shut until the 19 April and almost everyone is working from home with the exception of security personnel, doctors and caregivers. Only supermarkets and stores selling essentials, like pharmacies, are open.
Our attempts to stock up on toilet rolls have been in vain, as most supermarkets have run out of these and other products like soap, noodles, flour and even washing powder. Panic has gripped most people, who are preparing for the possibility of a nationwide lockdown.
Already, a town in Bavaria has restricted its citizens from moving outside their homes in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading and the administrations of Berlin and Brandenburg are mulling the possibility of enforcing a restriction on people moving around.
While all of this may sound like doom is just around the corner, it is a testimony to how far officials and citizens alike are willing to take responsibility for themselves and tackle the crisis. People with flu-like symptoms have been told to stay at home and call a special emergency number dedicated to testing for coronavirus.
Experts pick up mucus swabs from patients’ homes and inform them if they are affected by COVID-19. If tested positive, they usually quarantine themselves in their homes, unless they have life-threatening symptoms.
Like elsewhere in Europe, employees in tourism companies and restaurants are worried for their jobs and governments in Europe have warned of an imminent economic crisis, considering that most businesses will be functioning only on a skeletal basis in the next weeks. But there is a silver lining to the crisis.
Social distancing has led many companies to create possibilities for their employees to work from home. Many people have stopped travelling to their jobs and many European cities – Venice, for example – are experiencing better air and clearer water thanks to lower pollution.
COVID-19 is a crisis of a dimension we haven’t witnessed for several decades, but it’s also an example of what we are capable of achieving together. Like everyone else in Coronavirus-affected regions, we in Germany are hoping that the virus’ spread will diminish, that life will return to normal in the next months, and that eventually, a vaccine will be developed. And of course, that we and our families will stay healthy in the meantime.
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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